By Vicki Croke
Score two for the good guys.
Amid all the tough news about worldwide poaching and habitat loss, this week brought two uplifting stories of rescue and compassion.
A tiny young elephant who was orphaned in Kenya and a baby gorilla trapped in a snare in the Democratic Republic of Congo are both healthy and safe today.
Daphne Sheldrick, Kenya’s queen of rescued elephants, reports through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust that the tiniest orphan they have ever received—“still petal pink”—was saved and cared for by compassionate people in the Samburu community. When contacted, the Sheldrick Trust arranged to airlift the baby by helicopter last week and they report that he is robust and in good spirits:
"Why he was orphaned remains a mystery, but he was retrieved and rescued when discovered abandoned by a sympathetic Samburu community who cared for him for two days in their manyatta [compound\ while they tried to get word out to the wildlife authorities. So remote is the region with no roads, that the only possible way to rescue this tiny baby was by helicopter. Ndotto has not yet been placed on the fostering program, but in the meantime we wanted to share a short film of this rescue and how he is doing a week down the line. We thank all those people involved in saving Ndotto, but especially the kind hearted Samburu community of the Ndoto Mountains who went to such lengths to keep him safe."
Meanwhile, in the Virunga National Park (made famous to many Westerners by gorilla researcher Dian Fossey) trackers reported that a one-and-a-half-year-old mountain gorilla was observed with a wire snare wrapped around his right leg. These snares, which are set by poachers, usually to catch buffalo or antelope, often trap other animals, like gorillas. The snares dig into flesh, and can cause infections that quickly become deadly.
Just yesterday, the group Gorilla Doctors reported:
"The emergency medical intervention to free a 1.5-year-old male mountain gorilla infant in Bageni group this weekend was a success! Both mother and baby had to be anesthetized to safely complete the intervention, but Dr. Eddy reports that the pair are doing well and recovering from their traumatic ordeal."
Dr. Eddy Kambale is one of more than a dozen veterinarians and health experts with the non-profit group Gorilla Doctors who monitor the gorillas and provide medical care when the animals are sick or injured. The baby gorilla and mother are well known to Dr. Kambale.
According to the Mail Online, “The veterinary team intervenes when the gentle giants are trapped in poacher’s snares, exhibiting symptoms of potentially fatal human viruses, and suffering from life-threatening trauma resulting from conflict amongst and between gorilla groups.” They operate in all three countries where the animals live—Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an area traumatized by genocide and war. Dr. Eddy Kambale has continued to work through war and instability in the region, and Gorilla Doctors reports that despite encounters with armed rebels, the veterinarian “has managed to rescue several gorilla orphans from poachers, perform regular health checks and multiple interventions, and even help carry out the field necropsies [animal autopsies\ of the mountain gorillas murdered in July 2007.”
There are 880 mountain gorillas left in the world, and their numbers, unlike that of other great apes, are increasing. Gorilla Doctors is often credited with helping to make that so.
Gorilla Doctors website GorillaDoctors.org says:
" Gorilla Doctors is dedicated to saving the mountain gorilla species one patient at a time. We are the only group providing wild mountain and Grauer’s gorillas with direct, hands-on medical care. Research has proven that by intervening to save sick and injured gorillas, the Gorilla Doctors have helped the overall mountain gorilla population to increase." Video.